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LOCKWOOD — Lockwood should build a new, free-standing 59,000-square-foot middle school, according to a recommendation by a facilities steering committee.

Committee Chairman Bob Chatriand made the recommendation to the school board during the trustees' meeting on Tuesday. The committee also recommends revamping heating/ventilation and air conditioning and bringing some items up to safety codes in the rest of the school.

The committee's recommendation would cost about $13.2 million — the district's maximum for bonding. A $13.2 million bond equals about 65 mills.

If Lockwood voters approved a $13.2 million bond, Chatriand said, "On our house, it's going to cost us a whole whopping 23 cents a day."

The school board is scheduled to make a decision on the recommendation during its July 25 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.

If the trustees seek a bond election it will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The steering committee has met for more than a year and decided by consensus to rec-ommend a new building, Chatriand said.

He said the committee members are committed to continuing on the project, including taking it to the public.

"We're not School District 2," Chatriand said, referring to recent failed levies in Billings. "We need to get behind this and make it happen."

"We'll share in the project of getting this project done and passed by the voters," he said.

Committee members and trustees said Tuesday that they want a transparent process in which the public is aware of all funding information and has access to all documents used to make decisions. Information is available on the school's Web site at http://lockwood.k12.mt.us-/futuregrowth.html.

Consultants JGA Architects, Engineers, Planners' estimates are that the new building would cost about $8.3 million.

Although the committee has chosen not to begin designing a new school building, figures used for the cost estimate give a glimpse of how it would be laid out, including dedicating more than one-third of the proposed new space to classrooms.

Under the recommendation, the new building would include:

  • 21,750 square feet of classroom space.
  • 3,175 square feet of art space.
  • 18,115 square feet of media, multipurpose space for a cafeteria/commons, health/physical education classroom, a PE classroom like a gym with no bleachers or wood floor, and locker/showers/toilets.
  • About 2,350 square-feet of administrative space such as a principal's 150-square-foot office, conference room and storage area.

JGA's estimated cost for H/VAC renovations is about $4.9 million and includes bringing some items up to code such as adding fire doors and upgrading alarms.

Lockwood schools have been in a space crunch for several years. School leaders have revamped closets, entryways and hallway space to make room for classes and offices. If a new building a constructed, existing uses would shift within the current 160,000 square-feet of schools space.

Superintendent Eileen Johnson said the committee members have thoroughly covered every aspect of the plan in long meetings that included research, study, arguing, discussing and agonizing. The trustees praised the committee's efforts.

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"You get a group of good people together, something good is bound to happen," Chatriand said.

In other action, the trustees:

  • Voted to formally establish a student council for grades six through eight.

They also agreed to set up an account for the student council. Kids held a dance to raise money last school year and are selling concessions at Big Sky State Games this weekend.

The board approved Charles Harvey as the student council adviser. He served in that capacity, informally, last school year.

Lockwood Middle School Principal Mike Sullivan said the program meshes the student council concept with the Montana Behavior Initiative. Students last year researched and developed the idea of a student council then presented a model to the school board for consideration.

  • Approved the middle-school handbook for 2006-07.
  • Voted to continue membership in the Eastern Yellowstone County Special Education Cooperative.

Johnson said the district has belonged to the cooperative for more than 25 years. She has been chairwoman of the cooperative for eight years and will also continue representing Lockwood.

The cooperative serves students, families and schools in Lockwood, Shepherd, Huntley Project, Hysham, Custer, Pioneer, Community and Squirrel Creek.

  • Accepted a revised teacher-evaluation form.

Sullivan said work on revamping the form started last October, went to the teachers' union in November and has gone through about six changes. The form, which rates teachers in planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities, aligns with their contract and job descriptions. Teachers are rated as proficient, developing or unsatisfactory.

"It's a tool to help teachers along," Sullivan said.

  • Heard a report on the upcoming summer-school session.

The district did not receive notice of state funding until after school let out, which may result in fewer students attending because families have already made plans, Sullivan said.

Sullivan, who is summer-school principal, said he checked year-end test scores and sent letters to about 180 families. Six teachers have been hired to teach, two each for primary, intermediate and middle school. Sullivan said hopes are that 50-60 students will attend.

The three-week summer-school session begins on July 24.

Contact Becky Shay at bshay@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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